“Nation’s Cake-Makers Now “Break All Rules”…Make Delicious Cakes!” – Easy, Speedy, New Softasilk Method uses only one bowl!” Betty Crocker touted the new Softasilk Cake Flour as “Our Dream Come True”.
To those who may not remember a time when cakes were made by opening a box and adding a minimal number of ingredients, with the most time-consuming part of the ordeal being the time the cake sat in an oven, cake baking originally took much more time, a list of ingredients and more than one bowl. Who had time for such a chore?
In its first move towards more convenient baking, General Mills’ Softasilk invention was an “amazement”. There was no longer a need to cream shortening first in its own bowl and beat eggs inside their own bowl to make a good-tasting, fluffy cake.
The revolution involved understanding gluten (and you thought gluten was a modern foodie term!) and making it softer, less tough.
So, what is the secret? It’s a special kind of flour, cake flour. Basically, it comes down to how much protein is in the flour. This determines whether your dessert is light and cake-like, or thick and bread-like.
Hard wheat produces a high-protein flour usually sold as “bread flour”. Soft wheat produces a low-protein flour usually called “cake flour”. The stuff that’s usually sold as “All-Purpose” flour is a mix of the two. According to my research, Softasilk is all-purpose flour with a touch of cornstarch added, lightening the final product. You can make a fair version from the all-purpose you already have in the pantry by adding 1 tsp. cornstarch to every cup of all-purpose flour called for in the recipe.
Back to the advertisement in the Woman’s Day 1943 magazine, homemakers could send for four ‘amazing’ recipes. The recipe included in the magazine was Cocoa Divinity Cake.
Cocoa Divinity Cake
Set out all ingredients well ahead to get to room temperature. (Shortening should be soft, not melted.) Pre-heat oven to 350°. Prepare pans (see below). Sift Softasilk before measuring. Measure all ingredients before starting to mix.
Sift together into bowl:
2 C sifted Softasilk
*1 ¼ or 1 ½ or 1 ¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups sugar
6 tbsp. cocoa
2/3 cup high grade vegetable shortening
1 cup buttermilk
Mix with electric mixer on slow to medium speed (or beat with spoon) for 2 min. by clock. Scrape bow frequently.
2 large eggs, unbeaten.
Mix with electric mixer 2 more min. (scraping bowl frequently). Pour into two well-greased and floured 8-in. round layer cake pans or one 8 ½-in. sq. cake 45 to 50 min.; in moderate oven (350°).
1 ¼ tsp. double action type (“Clabber Girl,” “Davis,” “Calumet,” “KC,” etc.); or 1 ½ tsp. phosphate type (“Rumford,” “Dr. Price’s,” etc.); or 1 ¾ tsp. tartrate type (“Royal” etc.). For an attractive red color, add ¼ tsp. red vegetable coloring to batter.
NOTE: You can rest a moment when mixing by hand. Just count actual mixing time.
Softasilk cake flour is still sold under the Pillsbury family of baking ingredients.